Bottle collecting frenzy in Ballston Spa, N.Y.

Bring bottles and collectors will come. You couldn’t miss the huge blue sign with a red arrow pointing the way: ANTIQUE BOTTLE SHOW AND SALE-BALLSTON SPA HIGH SCHOOL. Anticipation ran high on June 7, 2008, as excited bottle collectors started lining up two hours before the 9:30 a.m. opening of the Saratoga Antique Bottle Show & Sale in Ballston Spa, N.Y., sponsored by the National Bottle Museum, also in Ballston Spa.

This annual event, one of the best attended bottle shows on the East Coast, is advertised widely across the country and is the highlight of the year for the museum. Without fail, this show has something for everyone. Approximately 300 to 400 collectors attended this show and were eager to check out the dealers showing their wares from all over the United States.

While the main attraction is held on Saturday, the “big party” as Jan Rutland, director of the museum calls it, actually kicks off on Friday afternoon from 2 p.m.-5 p.m. at the museum with a home cooked buffet provided for the collectors, dealers, and special guests. The buffet gathering gives collectors and dealers a unique opportunity to get together before the Saturday show, in a relaxed atmosphere for bottle stories, and spend some extra time checking out and admiring all of the various museum displays and exhibits.

One entire wall of the museum’s first floor is covered with more than 2,000 bottles of many colors, shapes and forms. The museum has access to collections all over the United States, and borrowing objects from members makes frequent changes and more spectacular exhibits possible. The museum also has a research library available during museum hours.

The show opened at 9:30 a.m. sharp with anxious collectors rushing in to find that special table looking for early deals. Within minutes there was a flurry of activity as deals took place between buyers and sellers while the aisles continued to fill up with more buyers.

While these bottles are considered rare, scarce, and historical artifacts, many were still offered at prices that were affordable to the collector. Along with these bottles, there was an array of other bottle types to satisfy every collector’s desires. There were a large variety of stoneware crocks, jugs, and ginger beer bottles available representing another popular area of collecting.

For the avid milk bottle collector, there were a large number of dealers offering unique collections from hundreds of dairies across the Eastern and Central United States, some very rare and scarce. The collector whose specialty focused on pontiled medicines and poisons was not left out with ample selections by many dealers.

As all collectors know, you can’t have enough reference material. Along with the many thousands of bottles for sale, there was also a large number of reference books and materials available for collectors covering the history and identification of antique bottles, trade cards, advertising material to complement the bottles, and rare and scarce postcards.

Near the end of the show, Rutland said, “This was another great show. The collectors and dealers always bring their best.”

The National Bottle Museum always extends a warm welcome to all who would like to visit and learn more about bottle collecting. To receive information about visiting or becoming a member, call 518-885-7589, visit, or e-mail

In order for the collector to experience a small part of the bottle making process, Larry Rutland, hot glass instructor at the museum glassworks in Ballston Spa and his assistant, Talyah Alpern, demonstrated flameworking techniques during the show. (The museum offers flame working classes. If interested, call 518-885-7589).